The Republican Race as a Risk Game

Posted February 25, 2016 by jsmyth
Categories: Uncategorized

risk board.jpg

Since I played Risk so much in high school it’s obvious to me why the other candidates aren’t attacking Trump. In politics, as in Risk, any attack you make on a fortified position hurts you as well as the enemy, especially if you know the other guy will turn in his cards and hit you back his next turn. There’s also the psychological obstacle of how well Trump’s been rolling. All the other candidates want someone else to be the one who sacrifices his armies to weaken Trump. Even the donor class does!

Here’s how the present race would look on a Risk board, a 5-man game (formerly a 6-man game) in order of number of armies:
1. Trump: Holds North America, unquestionably has the most armies, and his already big lead will continue to grow unless the others attack him to break his hold on the continent now.
2. Rubio: Holds Africa. Could attack Trump via Europe (which is now open, see #6) but would rather consolidate Europe (not enough time for that though!) or attack Cruz and take over South America.
3. Cruz: South America. Can only expand by attacking Trump or Rubio. Rather than attacking the stronger one, Trump, he’d like to eliminate Rubio and get the South America-Africa combo, which would give him as many bonus armies as Trump’s North America does.
4. Kasich: Australia, but only recently. Has too few armies to attack anyone and is hoping for the other players to destroy each other so he can rise up several turns later.
5. Carson: Wandering in Asia. No continent bonus and his once-formidable armies are almost entirely drained away, but has too few cards and is too distant to be worth the trouble of attacking.
6. Jeb!: Recently eliminated by Trump and Rubio after repeatedly failing to execute the difficult strategy of holding Europe.

Hidden discrimination against burakumin persists

Posted December 25, 2015 by jsmyth
Categories: Japan, Translations

Translation of a Dec. 24, 2015 Asahi Shimbun report by Rie Kowaka (小若理恵).

Hidden discrimination against burakumin continues today: restaurant patrons leave when they see which hometown’s cooking the chef is serving

This year, the Buraku Liberation League Aichi Prefecture chapter (led by Katsuo Yoshida 吉田勝夫), which has worked to eliminate discrimination against burakumin, celebrated its 40th anniversary. Burakumin are avoided because of where they live. The national and local governments have been working to improve their living conditions. Discrimination against them has become difficult to see, but “many kinds of everyday discrimination remain,” a BLL headquarters spokesperson said.

Yoshiharu Yamamoto (age 38) runs an izakaya restaurant in Nagoya. He recalls that during an interview this June, he showed a customer a menu of the hometown cooking he’d grown up with, and immediately after reading it the customer departed. His hometown is among the burakumin communities that have faced discrimination.

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Live-action “Attack on Titan” is a Disaster

Posted August 18, 2015 by jsmyth
Categories: Uncategorized

The basic problem with this movie is it seems like the director and the studio thought “this is a scary movie for junior high school boys” and what’s worse, they have very low opinions of the tastes of junior high school boys. It’s also extraordinarily sexist as I’ll write in detail below.

The manga had very complete and mature characters and plotting from the start, but these guys were all turned into thirsty idiots who are too busy having sex to realize there are Titans right next to them.

The major themes of the story, like family love and sacrifice, and political class conflict, were completely absent. All that was left was an army, and it was the world’s most disorganized army.

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Can China afford to eliminate pollution?

Posted March 3, 2015 by jsmyth
Categories: China, Politics

It’s very good news that so many Chinese are so concerned about pollution (Google “Chai Jing documentary”) but I’m worried that under their present system, they have no way to really change it. I think the problem isn’t just political corruption or insufficient transparency: it’s that the level of debt throughout the society is already too high. The more companies control pollution, the lower their profits. The more the government tries to eliminate pollution, the more it’ll spend. But over the past 7 years, China’s debt level has already nearly quadrupled, so if it slows the economy to take on the pollution problem, will it afford to pay off its debts? Using debt to power an economy is like running on a treadmill whose speed you can’t adjust. Once you slow down, you fall. I still think China has to face the pollution problem (I refuse to live there because of it) but if it really wants to do that, I fear it’ll have to go through a financial crisis and recession first.

這麼多中國人這麼關心環境污染是一件非常好的消息,可是我擔心在現在的制度下他們無法真正改變這個情況。我認為,問題不只是政治腐敗或不夠透明,而是全社會中負債額度已經太高。公司越控制污染利潤就越少,還有政府越消除污染要花的錢越多,可是這七年中全國負債額度已經漲了三倍,所以如果讓經濟緩慢以面對巨大的污染問題,還還得起負債嗎?用負債來推動經濟就像用無法調整的跑步機,你一緩慢就倒下來了。我還是認為中國需要面對污染問題(我個人因此就千萬不要住那邊)可是真得要做的話,恐怕要先經過一次金融危機與經濟衰退。

Ask Haruki Murakami — Translation of the Question Form

Posted January 16, 2015 by jsmyth
Categories: Uncategorized

askharuki

The site for Haruki Murakami’s advice column is open until Jan. 31 and while it’s in Japanese, he’ll also take questions in English. Want to ask him something but don’t know Japanese? Don’t worry, I’ve translated the fields for you:

Go here to write your question: https://reg31.smp.ne.jp/regist/is?SMPFORM=thl-nikdp-d6cb7b3742b99baef77969bc3627fea3

The ten fields are:

1. Pen Name (anonymity is ok)
2. Gender: Left Bubble=Male, Right=Female
3. Age
4. Job
5. Question Category: This is multiple choice and there are 4 options: (1) There’s something I’d like to ask or discuss with Mr. Murakami (2) There’s something I’d like to say to Mr. Murakami (3) Place(s) I like or dislike (4) About cats or the Yakult Swallows [baseball team]
6. My Question/Comment (1200-character limit)
7. Email Address
8-9. I agree with House Rules and Privacy Policy (must be checked)
10. I’d like to receive emails about Murakami and his works in the future (warning, they’ll be in Japanese)
To send click on the big black button on the bottom.

If you have any other questions let me know!

Against Renting out the Sistine Chapel to Porsche

Posted October 18, 2014 by jsmyth
Categories: Art, Religion

Tags:

Story: http://news.artnet.com/in-brief/rent-the-sistine-chapel-for-your-next-party-136198

I understand the Pope’s good intentions, and of course I believe people should give everything they can to the poor. But to me is a question of access to sacred spaces. It’s similar to the Luke 26:6-13 (“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me”) controversy.

My objection isn’t related to fresco wear from nighttime vieweing–no matter how much hot air can Porsche executives emit, they won’t have the same effect as the prodigious numbers of people ‘shuffling’ through in daytime hours.

We’re likely wearing down the Chapel with all those people. But the totally open-doors policy the Church has taken with the place is beautiful. What is the Sistine Chapel? It’s a depiction of the whole progression of God’s relationship with mankind, of our beginnings and our end, painted at great personal cost by one of the greatest artists the West has ever known, in the center of the church founded by Christ to save mankind, and all you need to come inside and see it is to be a human being yourself. (And 8-16 euros for maintenance.)

Once you make access to this sacred space contingent on how much money you offer, it becomes something less than universal. It becomes just like everywhere else, where being a famous corporation and having a ton of money gets you farther in life. It’d be one thing if the Pope were using the money as a lure to make a full-court-press to the save the souls of all 40 tourists while they were in his house, but from this is being billed as a non-religious function, with a concert and a gala dinner, and already people are interpreting participation in it as a status symbol. I know the Vatican was used for much worse things back in the Renaissance itself but let’s not hold ourselves to such low standards. To me, the Sistine Chapel and other sacred art should be freely given and not for sale.

Judicial independence is the basis of Hong Kong’s economic value

Posted October 2, 2014 by jsmyth
Categories: Business, China, Politics

Tags:

This is my translation of the first half of this post by chenglap on a Taiwanese forum. I think it’s a strong rebuttal to the argument (which many people share) that HKers should throw all their effort into making money and not get involved in politics.

You misunderstand. The importance of Hong Kong, when you come down to it, isn’t its substantive “economy”; it’s the liquidity of transactions there. Hong Kong is indeed a major economic city, but not for economic reasons: for political ones. Not even Hong Kongers themselves understand this. Hong Kongers commonly believe their value, and the reason they’re rich, comes from their understanding of economics and how to do business. On the contrary, Hong Kongers don’t really understand economics, and something else is the foundation of Hong Kong’s value: Hong Kong’s independence.

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll discover that all Western systems separate Hong Kong and China and treat them differently. Obviously China cares a lot about this, so it always demands that the word “China” be appended to the name “Hong Kong.” You won’t see them doing that with Shanghai or Shenzhen.

I’m not saying Hong Kong is an independent nation. I’m saying Hong Kong’s value is in its independence in external affairs, toward the world outside the ethnic Chinese community, that is, in the eyes of the world.

To become a financial center, having a big economy is just an entry ticket. Global credibility is the core question. To put it bluntly, it’s a question of how chaotic local governance is. Some places produce oil and diamonds and are very wealthy, but that doesn’t mean they can become economic centers. If you don’t have a government and legal system that meets international standards and is globally recognized, you simply have no way to guarantee the safety of the assets kept in your city.

Hong Kong is trusted because its systems are all independent from the People’s Republic of China. It has an independent currency and independent financial system. It follows the UNCLOS. It has a different judicial system than mainland China, one with the same source as the U.S. and U.K. It basically preserves separation of powers, so the executive cannot control judges’ legal decisions. It has a citizens’ jury system, lawyers, and a legal system that are all recognized by countries following the U.S.-U.K. framework.

Hence, companies are willing to line up and take a number to put their assets in Hong Kong, and extend credit there, -not- because Hong Kong has a “good economy”, but because they believe that Hong Kong will protect these things. The courts are the defender of everything. No matter how good the economy is, if the government can seize your assets at will there, and the courts that are supposed to defend you are on the government’s side as well, then that place is a “paradise of risk” and can never become a financial center. Finance is built on credibility.

Unless East China undergoes major governmental change, Shanghai will never have the conditions of a true financial center, no matter how much it develops. It won’t have its own currency, its own financial network, its own laws, nor credibility, because its credibility is equivalent to the People’s Republic of China’s. Chinese judges are appointed by the Chinese government. They don’t have independence. Foreign businesses that have business disputes in China with Chinese businesses do not believe that the courts there will protect them.

If Shanghai’s legal system cannot regulate the government, and the government can do whatever it wants there, independent credibility cannot be built there.

When Shenzhen was made a Special Economic Zone, the architects considered this point and thought about establishing a “Shenzhen Dollar”, and midway through seemed to want to strengthen the area’s autonomy as well. This is because they realized that the trust placed in Hong Kong stemmed from its autonomy, and from the government not being able to do whatever it wants there. However, Shenzhen was unable to win these rights. Hong Kong has the Internet domain .hk, and Taiwan has .tw, but could Shenzhen have .sz? Sadly, no; that’s Swaziland.

Through investment in industry and cheap labor, these cities can develop better economies than Hong Kong and have higher commodity prices, but how could they build independent credibility or a financial system that isn’t controlled by the government? How would they create an independent judiciary? It’s not that Shanghainese and Shenzhenese aren’t as hardworking or talented as Hong Kongers; they are, actually. But the systems that have already been established there stem from political issues and their issues cannot be resolved simply by making more money.

Outsiders don’t believe in Chinese Hong Kong’s economy; they believe in its credibility. Obviously, many often say that if you have strong fists you don’t need to defend your credibility. Yes, you could then shout at your people that you can do whatever you want and they can’t stop it, but foreigners won’t go for that. The business environment would be like a casino where you could win money easily but couldn’t leave with your winnings.


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